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1 Sep, 2009 13:08

Did Saakashvili get a shoe salute?

A Georgian newspaper claims that Mikhail Saakashvili took a shoe to the head during his recent visit to the Abkhazian border. The Georgian Government denies such an incident ever happened.

According to Alia newspaper, the alleged encounter between the president’s forehead and the footwear took place on Sunday, when Saakashvili was visiting the coastal village of Ganmukhuri near the border with Abkhazia. When he was giving an interview and crouching on the floor at a local disco club, a man took off his shoe and hurled it at the Georgian leader, and then ran away with presidential bodyguards and policemen in his wake.

The unknown assailant was more successful than Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who made throwing shoes a world-wide fad by launching his own at US President George W. Bush in political protest.

According to presa.ge news website the situation in the village was tense even before the incident. “There was so much swearing that if they arrested everyone calling Saakashvili names the village would be deserted,” it says.

As for the fate of the Georgian shoe-thrower, he was allegedly captured by police, given several punches and taken away in a car. Locals commented that they have never seen the man before and believed that he was drunk.

Unlike the Baghdad shoe incident, the one in Ganmukhuri was never aired by TV channels for whatever reason. Instead, Georgians could see the president describing a bright future of the village as a seaside resort with locals cheering him.

The Alia report was denied by the Georgian government, but it didn’t stop the country’s opposition from making fun of the president. Comments ranged from offers to buy “that boot” to allegations that the incident was staged by Saakashvili himself in an act of mimicking the former American president.

Mikhail Saakashvili has a record of several on-screen gaffes, including a tie-chewing episode on the BBC and running from “Russian bombers” during the August 2008 armed conflict.

Wednesday update

On Wednesday, the shoe incident was illustrated by a video, which shows Mikhail Saakashvili picking up a female sandal from the ground, inquiring if it was dropped by Cinderella.

Whether it was really thrown at the Georgian president or just served to start the rumor is unknown.